Building muscle and gaining strength isn’t all about killing it in the gym. You’ll see the most progress by tailoring your diet to suit your goals. Why? When we exercise, small tears are formed in our muscle tissue. If you’re weight lifting and building muscle, this is the process of getting bigger or leaner – by tearing muscles and repairing. When your muscles repair, they use amino acids to rebuild cells.
This is where protein comes in! Without an adequate amount of protein (1-1.2g per kg of bodyweight depending on your lifestyle), your body won’t be able to recover properly and therefore make progress. (Read more: how does protein build muscle)
But it’s not all about protein; numerous foods are needed to help you gain the lean muscle you want. Carbohydrates and fats are also crucial to provide your body with fuel and everything it needs to operate at its best.
Not sure where to start? Here are of our favourite foods to help you reach your goals:
Packed full of protein and great for satisfying a sweet tooth, Greek yoghurt is an awesome choice for breakfast, dessert or a mid-afternoon snack. It’s also an awesome source of calcium, which is known to improve bone health. Choose a light option or full-fat depending on your goals.
Your Saturday brunch-staple could be helping you reach your goals without you knowing! Eggs pack a pretty impressive punch, and we’re talking about the WHOLE egg - not just the whites. Egg yolks also contain proteins, as well as other nutrients that can’t be found in the whites, such as B vitamins, iron, vitamin D and all essential fatty acids.
Not a fan of scrambled or fried? Add them to a batch of protein pancakes; like in our go-to easy breezy recipe!
It’s probably unsurprising that we’ve included protein supplements in here, but there’s good reason why we think it’s so great! Protein powder, when mixed with water and made into a shake, will reach muscles more quickly than solid food and start repairing those tears. Mix up a 30g single serve sachet with water to refuel on-the-go, or bulk things up with a post-workout smoothie.
Tofu or Tempeh
Getting in plenty of protein doesn’t need to be difficult, even if you prefer to eat a plant-based diet. Tofu and tempeh are both l great vegan sources of protein that are low in fat and super easy to throw in a stir fry or curry.
Need something that you can eat on the go? Try our vegan hemp & pea protein blend instead…
For a hearty breakfast or a satiating post-workout meal, a good bowl of oats will always be a firm favourite of ours. Carbs are crucial post-workout in order to replenish depleted glycogen stores and, along with good quality protein, to help rebuild muscle tears. Carbohydrates are also the body’s main source of energy, so if you want to perform well in the gym, slow-releasing carbohydrates such as oats are key.
Fats often get a bad rep, but they’re absolutely crucial, no matter your goal. They are calorie dense, meaning they’ll not only keep you fuller for longer and will keep your mind sharp – meaning you’ll be firing on all cylinders during your afternoon meeting. If you are looking to put on size, healthy fats like peanut butter should be your new best friend. The density means they are great for adding energy to meals, so be bold - add a generous dollop to your favourite smoothie, smear it on toast or even whip up a batch of peanut butter protein balls…
Yes, balancing your macronutrients is important, but don’t forget about your micronutrients. To function optionally, which is key if you want to build muscle & gain strength, your body needs a full spectrum of vitamins and minerals and eating plenty of veg will make sure you hit your fibre goals too!
Eating dessert to help you build lean muscle? Hear us out on this one…
Abstaining from all your favourite sweet treats is unlikely to be a sustainable approach to reaching your goals. Often, this just ends in a big blow out. Instead of restricting yourself too much, take things slow and add in your favourite foods in moderation. It’s better to eat a bit of chocolate here, and a little bit of ice cream there, than to get to the point where you’re desperate to eat everything in sight.